What if?

The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits

Scenario thinking is a tool for motivating people to challenge the status quo, or get better at doing so, by asking "What if?" Asking "What if?" in a disciplined way allows you to rehearse the possibilities of tomorrow, and then to take action today empowered by those provocations and insights. What if we are about to experience a revolutionary change that will bring new challenges for nonprofits? Or enter a risk-averse world of few gains, yet few losses? What if we experience a renaissance of social innovation? And, importantly, what if the future brings new and unforeseen opportunities or challenges for your organization? Will you be ready to act?

What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits aims to better prepare nonprofit leaders for the future by familiarizing them with scenario thinking. The material presented here derives from the institutional knowledge of Global Business Network and from GBN's multi-year partnership with the David and Lucille Packard Foundation's Organizational Effectiveness and Philanthropy Program, launched in early 2001 with the goal of raising awareness of scenario thinking among nonprofits. This guide is but one result of that collaboration. It introduces and defines scenario thinking, describes the process and exercises for putting it into practice, offers real-life nonprofit examples, and provides a wealth of additional resources and a glossary.

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